ASUS announced the refreshed Zenfone Max series last year that aims to provide premium features along with a bigger battery while keeping the price at bay. Other ASUS Zenfone branded smartphones like the Zenfone Max Pro M2, Zenfone Max M2 and the older Zenfone Max Pro M1 feared really well in the Indian market. However, the future seems to be bleak for the series with a ruling against ASUS prohibiting them from selling smartphones or accessories under the Zenfone branding in India.
Telecare Network India Pvt Limited filed a plaintiff against ASUS claiming the Zen and Zen Mobiles are their own. The company sells both feature phones and entry-level phones and previously sold tablets also. It claims that the uses of a similar branding by a competitor is damaging and can create confusion among customers. Delhi High court found the argument reasonable and banned ASUS from selling any smartphone, tablet or accessory under the Zenfone branding starting eight weeks after May 28 i.e from July 23.
The High Court took the fact that Zen has been selling mobile phones since 2008 and even has a partnership with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in 2010 as the company’s brand ambassador. ASUS had no counter argument for this fact as it started selling smartphones under the Zenfone branding from 2014.
ASUS in its defence said that Zen is a generic term in Buddhist philosophy but the court overruled this fact by saying even though Zen is a common term, it cannot be easily associated with smartphone technology and therefore cannot be treated as generic in this case. And thus, Telecare Network is “entitiled” to protect the trademark, the judgement says.
The next hearing for this case is on July 10. If the lawyers representing ASUS fails to provide compelling evidence that its decision to choose a conflicting name is not an act of trademark infringement and passing off, the company may have no option other than to comply with the court ruling and stop selling the devices in India. ASUS also has its ZenBook line of laptop which will likely to be affected by the decision.
For now, ASUS can bypass the this prohibition by selling devices under a different brand name or proceed with the appealing in the Supreme Court of India which may take very long before a resolution is passed.